The Art and Science of Fitting a Suit


For two generations, the professionals at Zahner’s have been analyzing body shapes, physical characteristics, and idiosyncrasies to perfect the fit of each garment that is sold. When considering a coat, we look at a client’s chest measurement first. A full circumference measurement is taken under the armpits with a bit of judgment involved. Playing a large part in the perfect fitting garment is if the customer is full-chested and large in the pectoral area. If we need to dart and gorge the front of the coat or if the customer is large across the back with a shallow chest, adjustments need to be made. The next area we look at is the over-arm measurement. A standard measurement would be six to ten inches larger than the chest, but can depend on the amount of mass the client carries in the bicep area. If the mass of the biceps is larger than normal this would require widening the sleeve head and deepening the armhole for greater movement, comfort, and flexibility. A visual assessment needs to be made of the body stance. Is the customer erect? Do they have their head forward? Are their shoulders square (high)? This will create a wrinkle about two inches below the collar, and is commonly referred to as “collar roll”. This can be removed by either lowering the collar (for small wrinkle) or squaring the shoulders by taking in the shoulder points (for larger wrinkles). Using this visual will also reveal if the client has one shoulder higher than the other (as many do), requiring an adjustment to the balance of the coat.

As we move lower in the coat we consider the drop. The drop is the difference between the chest and the waist measurement. This is one of the biggest frustrations which clients experience with “off-the-rack” garments from department stores and internet purchases. A standard drop is six inches, and we stock many six inch drop garments in classic, modern, and trim fits. A body assessment will determine the proper garment for the client. We also carry an athletic fit, which is an eight inch drop. Zahner’s is one of the few retailers to carry an athletic fit in stock. The executive drop is for those endowed with a greater girth and is usually a four inch drop. However, this can vary depending on the size.

Fitting the Slacks

Next we consider the pants. Besides the style of pleated or flat front, there are other factors of the garment to be considered. First is the positioning of the waist. Does the client wear his pants on his true waist or on the hip? A properly fitted pant will not only add to the enjoyment but also the longevity of wear. The difference between the inseam and the outseam measurements is known as the rise. If the rise is too short, it is uncomfortable when sitting. If the rise is too long, the crotch either hangs too low or gets hiked up too high. Many clients have never experienced the comfort of a properly fitted pair of pants. Also to be considered is the seat measurement, which is the widest part of the pant approximately four inches below the waist. A pleated pant has added fullness in this area and works well for those with athletic thighs. Next would be the knee and bottom measurements. Each client will have a choice of measurement with a standard knee of twenty one inches on a pant with a thirty four inch waist pant. For the same pair, the bottom around the ankle is about eighteen inches.

   Of note here for practical reasons, Zahner’s fitters advise clients with large shoe sizes not to get the pant too narrow at the bottom because it accentuates the size of the foot.

   For more information or for any questions on actual made-to-measure garments, please go to the custom page, or visit us in the store for a more personal experience.